As a general rule, energy bars should not be used as a replacement for meals or snacks throughout the day. Instead, they should be reserved for long training sessions when you need to replace calories to sustain energy levels. Better to reach for whole foods—that include fruits, nuts, vegetables, lean proteins—to fuel hunger and replenish nutrients between meals.
But I have to admit that I love Clif Bars—especially the chocolate chip and coconut chocolate chip flavors (although I’m quite fond of apricot, chocolate almond fudge…well, nearly all of the flavors when it comes down to it)—and I’ve often violated the general rule noted above when it comes to using Clif Bars as snacks. As long as it’s only occasional (and you’re not trying to live off the things like Gary Erickson, the Clif Bar founder, once tried), a Clif Bar can sometimes be a better alternative to less healthy choices (like cookies or a candy bar).
Here are a few ways I’ve made use of Clif Bars as a key ingredient in some serious pre- and post-workout refueling treats:
Clif Bars n’ Cream
Put a few scoops of yogurt in a bowl (plain or vanilla works best); then break up a Clif Bar into little chunks over the yogurt. Mix and enjoy. This makes a good substitute for a bowl of cookies and ice cream.
Clif Bar Trail Mix
Start with your favorite trail mix recipe, whether it’s good old raisins and peanuts (gorp) or another combination of fruits and nuts (I like almonds, cashews, walnuts, raisins, and apricots). Then cut up a Clif Bar into small pieces and add to the mix. The Clif Bar adds a nice texture to the trail mix, not to mention it energizes an already energy-packed snack.
Clif Bar with Almond Butter
Take your favorite natural almond butter (or peanut butter); and spread it on top of a Clif Bar. Stop here or add a layer of sliced bananas on top of the almond butter. Although I usually have just bananas with almond butter when I need to get an alpine start, I occasionally do the Clif Bar with almond butter combination before a key morning workout as well as on race day morning.
Chocolatey Clif Bars
This recipe adds a chocolate twist the one above. Take chocolate almond butter (or another type of chocolate nut butter, like peanut or hazelnut) and spread it on top of a Clif Bar. The chocolate chip or coconut chocolate chip Clif Bars work well as a base, or you can really double up on the chocolate with chocolate or chocolate almond fudge Clif Bars. Another variation on this recipe is to simply use regular almond butter and then add semi-sweet chocolate chips on top of the almond butter. Either way, this acts as a tasty dessert when you need a chocolate fix.
Again, these Clif Bar “recipes” are for occasional use and should not replace well balanced meals with whole foods. But, in moderation, Clif Bars can be enjoyed in myriad ways as an occasional splurge for hungry athletes. Enjoy!